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Dance in Hinduism is an accompaniment to the perpetual dissolving and reforming of the world. Balinese dance is a very ancient tradition that is a major part of the people's religious and artistic expression. Balinese dancers are exposed to music before they are born and are taught to dance with their hands before they can walk. The dance movement is closely associated with the rhythms produced by the gamelan, a primarily percussive musical ensemble specific to Java and Bali that is performed on metallophones played by mallets and hand-played drums called kendhang which register the beat; multiple levels of articulation in the face, eyes, head, hands, arms, hips, and feet are coordinated to reflect the layers of percussive sounds. Dynamic, angular, and intensely expressive, Balinese dance movements dramatize a narrative. One form, legong, probably originated in the 19th century as royal entertainment, perhaps in conjunction with the sanghyang dedari, a ceremony involving voluntary possession of two little girls by beneficent spirits. (Sanghyang was a sacred Balinese dance, based on the idea that a force, hyang, entered the body of an entranced performer.) One story claims that when a prince of Sukwati fell ill and had a vivid dream in which two maidens danced to gamelan music, and after he recovered he arranged for such dances to be performed in reality. Traditionally, legong dancers were prepubescent girls who had begun rigorous training from about the age of five. They were regarded highly and usually became wives of royal personages or wealthy merchants. Performances by men in women's costumes are also recorded. The most common subject was the tale of the king of Lasem, taken from the "Malat," a collection of heroic romances. the king was at war against the father (or brother) of princess Ranjasari, who fled into the forest to kep from marrying him. He captured and imprisoned her before resuming his war. His death was foretold when he was attacked by a monstrous raven. The two main characters were accompanied by a third dancer (a condong or attendant) who set the scene, presented the dancers with their fans, and later performed as the raven.
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